Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fear Trumps Logic

In the wake of the killing of four police officers in Lakewood last Sunday, Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick recently made some changes when it comes to Spokane police officers writing up their reports all alone. It's not allowed.

In the past police officers would park their patrol cars in the middle of the Spokane Arena to write up their reports on their computers at the end of their shifts. The parking lot afforded them clear fields of view for up to a hundred yards in all directions, giving them plenty of time to see anything approaching them and react to potential threats.

Effective Monday, Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick has banned police officers driving solo from writing their reports in the Arena parking lot in the interests of officer safety.

The shootings of four police officers in Lakewood, coming on the heels of an unrelated deadly shooting of a police officer several weeks ago in Seattle, has prompted the Spokane Police Department to make some changes in the way it does business. “My concern as I'm sure is your concern is that this is probably copycat,” Chief Kirkpatrick said to her officers during the morning roll call.


“What I’m asking you to do is do not write police reports in your patrol car. I want you to come to the station or go to Cop Shops or have someone with you to act as some sort of lookout,” Kirkpatrick said.

Notice the basis for this is that she believed Clemmons was inspired by an unrelated attack in which a Seattle police officer was killed a few weeks ago. And from that she thinks the likelihood for a copycat killer to strike in Spokane has increased so much so that the precautions they already take, parking in the middle of a huge parking lot so they have a clear view in all directions, are not enough. Now they have to have some sort of a lookout.

The Spokane Police Department's tarnished image is hardly going to improve if officers are in the frame of mind that every member of the public represents a danger to them.

Officers typically spend up to two hours every shift writing reports but if they do that in their cars police can stop filing out their paperwork and respond to calls for service faster. Now they will have to choose between their safety and crime-fighting efficiency and their chief open to suggestions.

I do have a suggestion. Step back and think about it. Don't get paralyzed by a "What if...?" scenario for which the only basis for thinking it will happen here is that it happened somewhere else.

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